AMAR DAS ( 1479-1574, Guruship, 1552-1574 )
Guru Amar Das was born on April 5, 1479 at Basarka village in Amritsar
district. He was the eldest son of his parents, Bhai Tej Bhan and
Mata Lakhmi. At the age of 24, he was married to Mansa Devi who
gave birth to two sons, Mohan and Mohri, and two daughters, Bibi
Dani and Bibi Bhani. The early history of Guru Amar Das has been
given in the last chapter.
Guru Angad's sons were upset because they claimed
that after their father, they were the legitimate heirs to Guruship.
Guru Angad's son Datu, therefore, proclaimed himself as Guru in
Khadur; but the Sikhs did not accept him as such. Secondly under
Guru Amar Das's strict dictum, it was mandatory that all persons,
high or low, rich or poor, king or the commoner, Brahmans or Sudras,
and Hindus or Muslims, must sit in the same row as equals to dine
in the Guru's langar (kitchen). This had upset the Brahmans very
much and they were on the search of an opportunity to rectify
this situation. These Brahmans and other higher caste leaders
saw some chance in Datu's revolt to capture the Guruship. Upon
their support, Datu proceeded to Goindwal where the Guru was stationing.
Guru Amar Das was sitting on his religious throne
and was delivering instructions to the congregation. Datu came
along with a large number of his companions and kicked the Guru,
who fell down the platform. Datu took possession of the platform
and proclaimed himself as the Guru. Guru Amar Das got up and said
in extreme humility,"Sir, pardon me, my hard bones might
have hurt your tender feet." After this the Guru left Goindwal
and went to his village Basarka. He confined himself in a house
outside the town without letting anybody know about his whereabouts.
Datu sat on Guru's throne in Goindwal and was
very proud of his position. The Sikhs, however, did not accept
him as Guru, and all the pilgrims to Goindwal went away on hearing
of the insult to their Guru. On seeing the Sikhs' contempt towards
him, one day Datu loaded his newly acquired wealth on a camel
and returned to Khadur. On his way he was encountered with some
robbers who seized the camel with the load, and one of the robbers
struck Datu on the same foot with which he had kicked the Guru.
Datu's foot swelled up and caused him great pain.
The Sikhs were very much distressed at loosing
their Guru. They searched all over but could not find him anywhere.
Under the leadership of Bhai Buddha, they prayed and then let
Guru's mare loose and anxiously followed it for a short distance.
The mare made her way to the Guru's house in Basarka, and stood
before his door. It was written on the door,"Whoever openeth
this door is no Sikh of mine, nor I am his Guru." They did
not open the door, but made an opening in the wall and made supplication
before the Guru. The Guru could not disregard the love and devotion
of his Sikhs and returned to Goindwal. The Guru's return was celebrated
with illuminations, rejoicing and feasting.
SOME NOTABLE SIKHS:
Bhai Paro belonged to a village, Dalla in Doaba,
an area between the rivers Beas and Satluj. He received religious
instructions and emancipation from the Guru. A rich Muslim horse-
dealer of Delhi, Alayar, brought five hundred horses from Arabia
and arrived at Beas. He could not continue his journey because
the river Beas was flooded and the boatmen refused to take the
risk in crossing the swollen river. Next morning Alayar saw Bhai
Paro plunge his horse into the foaming river and reaching the
opposite shore in safety. Alayar met Paro on his return and complimented
his daring feat of crossing the river. Bhai Paro told him that
it was through the blessings of the Guru that he could cross the
swollen river. He further informed Alayar about Guru's glory.
Alayar became anxious to meet the Guru. Next morning they both
went to see him.
Alayar (Ala means God, and yar means friend) was
delighted to see the Guru. Hearing his name the Guru said to him,"It
is difficult to become friend (yar) of God (Ala), but I will make
God thy Master and thee His servant." Alayar was blessed
by the Guru and he became his disciple. Alayar was made incharge
of the first Manji (diocese) of the 22 Manjis that were set up
by Guru Amar Das later on to spread the fragrance of Name. There
are numerous such stories of the Sikhs who were blessed by the
BAWLI AT GOINDWAL:
Guru Amar Das purchased some land in Goindwal
and laid the foundation of a Bawli (a well with descending steps)
in 1559. All Sikhs joined in the work of digging the Bawli. There
was great activity throughout the construction of the Bawli.
Hari Das, a Khatri of Sodhi tribe, lived with
his wife, Daya Kaur, in Chuna Mandi, a suburb of Lahore. Both
husband and wife were very religious. After twelve years of their
marriage, a son was born to them on September 24, 1534. They called
him Ram Das, who was generally known as Jetha meaning first-born.
He was very handsome having fair complexion with pleasing personality.
As he grew up he liked the company of holy men. One day his mother
boiled some pulse, put it into a basket and gave it to him to
sell and make profit. Jetha went to the river Ravi. Soon he saw
a company of holy men, and Jetha gave the boiled pulse to them
and went home. The holy men were very much pleased and prayed
for the boy.
One day Jetha saw a company of Sikhs singing the
hymns and proceeding with great rejoicing. He asked whither they
were going, one of them said,"We are going to Goindwal where
Guru Amar Das holds his court. Every blessing in this world and
the next is obtained by his favor. Come with us." On hearing
this Jetha was delighted and he joined them in their pilgrimage.
On seeing the Guru, Jetha's heart was filled with
love and devotion. When he made his obeisance to the Guru, he
was attracted by his pleasing personality. The Guru remarked,"If
you have come abandoning all worldly desires, you shall obtain
a true sovereignty. Perform work and service." Jetha happily
applied himself to the Guru's service. He worked in the kitchen,
cleaned dishes, shampooed his Master and brought firewood from
the forest. He worked in the excavation of the Bawli during his
Guru's eldest daughter, Bibi Dani (also known
as Sulakhni) was married to Rama. The other daughter, Bibi Bhani
was very religious from the very childhood. When she was of marriageable
age, her mother reminded the Guru that it was time to search for
a match for her. The Guru ordered the search. When his agent was
ready to depart, Bibi Bhani's mother saw a young person standing
outside and she said to the agent,"Search for a boy like
him." The Guru heard her remarks and exclaimed,"He is
his own parallel, for God had made none other like unto him."
The young man thus chosen was Jethaji (Ram Das).
At the time of marriage, the bridegroom was asked
by the Guru to choose a gift for himself, as it was customary
to do so. Jethaji replied,"Sir, bless me with the gift of
Hari Nam." Bibi Bhani not only considered the Guru as her
father but her Guru also. In the same way she served Jetha not
only as her husband but as a saint also. Prithi Chand was their
first son and three years later Mahadev, the second son made his
appearance. On April 15, 1563 Jetha and Bibi Bhani were blessed
with their third son, Arjan, at whose birth there were unusual
Meanwhile the Sikhs continued excavation of the
Bawli. After digging very deep they found large stones which hindered
the progress. The Guru asked the Sikhs if there was any one who
would be courageous to drive a peg into the base to remove the
obstruction. He had, however, warned that the operation had great
danger because if the person could not avert the gush of the water,
he might be drowned. All the Sikhs remained silent and no one
came forward to take such a risk. At last Manak Chand of Vairowal,
who was married to a niece of the Guru, offered his services.
This was the same Manak Chand whose parents were blessed with
a son (Manak Chand) by Guru Nanak.
Manak Chand, invoking God's name and through the
grace of the Guru, was able to wedge through the stone and the
stream of water immediately overflowed the Bawli. He was overtaken
by the gush of the water. He almost drowned but by the grace of
the Guru, he came to the top from where he was taken out and was
revived. Therefore, he was called 'Marjiwra' (revived after death).
The Bawli when finished yielded sweet drinking
water. The Sikhs rejoiced at the successful completion of their
labor. There were eighty-four steps reaching down the Bawli. It
is believed that whosoever recites Japji attentively and reverently
at each step, is saved from the cycle of transmigration.
GURU KA LANGAR (FREE KITCHEN):
Guru's free kitchen (Guru ka Langar) which was
started by Guru Nanak and developed by Guru Angad, was further
strengthened by Guru Amar Das. It was the injunction of Guru Amar
Das that none would have his audience unless he had first eaten
from the Langar. The Guru intended to remove the caste restrictions
and prejudices of untouchability. It was, therefore, declared
unequivocally that all persons of all castes, high or low, rich
or poor, Brahmans or Sudras, Hindus or Muslims, must sit in the
same line and eat the same food from Guru's kitchen. When Raja
of Haripur or even Akbar, the Mughal Emperor of India, came to
see the Guru, they had to sit with common people and dine with
them before they could have audience with the Guru. In this way
people were lifted above the hypocrisy of caste system and were
able to look at one another as brothers and equals.
Mai Das was a renowned Pandit and a devout worshipper
of Lord Krishna. He was a strict Vaishnav, he would eat only what
he had cooked with his own hands within a purified square. The
Guru rejects these purified squares:
"All outlined purified squares are false;
O Nanak, Only God is pure." (Maru ki Var, Slok Mohalla 3,
When he came to see the Guru, he was informed
that unless he had eaten from Guru's kitchen, he could not see
him. Being a strict Vaishnav he could not do that, so he left
for Dwarka where he thought to have a glimpse of Lord Krishna.
On the eleventh day of lunar month Mai Das used to fast and would
eat just fruits during that period. Due to winter season the fruits
were not available in the forest. Mai Das wandered hungry in the
forest looking for fruits but could not find them. Finally he
started calling on his gods for help. At last he heard a voice,"You
have not eaten food from the Guru's kitchen, and you have not
had holy sight of him; therefore shalt thou not obtain perfection.
If you desire to do so, then first behold Guru Amar Das."
Upon this Mai Das returned to Goindwal. He partook
of food from the Guru's kitchen, and then was allowed to see the
Guru. The Guru welcomed him,"Come, Mai Das, thou art a special
saint of God." The Guru initiated him as his Sikh, blessed
him with Nam and bestowed on him the spiritual power of conferring
salvation on others. Mai Das held one of the 22 Manjis (dioceses)
set up by Guru Amar Das.
EMPEROR AKBAR VISITS THE GURU:
Akbar, the Emperor of India, on his way to Lahore,
paid a visit to the Guru at Goindwal. He was informed that he
could not see the Guru until he had dined with others from the
Guru's kitchen. Akbar partook of the food in the Langar, the more
he had it, the more he relished it. After that the Emperor had
an interview with the Master. It is said that the Guru rose to
receive the Emperor in his arms, but Akbar spontaneously bowed
to touch the feet of the Master. The monarch felt a thrill of
joy and peace by the holy touch.
Having seen the large number of people fed from
the Guru's kitchen, Akbar requested the Guru to accept his services
and his offerings. But the Guru replied,"I have obtained
lands and rent- free tenures from my Creator. Whatever comes daily
is spent daily, and for the morrow my trust is in God." Akbar
then replied,"I see you desire nothing. From thy treasury
and thy kitchen countless people receive bounties, and I also
entertain similar wishes, I will grant these 84 villages to thy
daughter, Bibi Bhani." This was the estate where Guru Ram
Das built the city of Ramdaspur which is now called Amritsar.
A COMPLAINT AGAINST GURU TO AKBAR:
When the Brahmans and the Khatris failed in their
mission to derail the Guru from Guruship by inciting Datu to declare
himself as Guru, they made a special complaint to Emperor Akbar.
In their complaint they alleged,"Every man's religion is
dear to him. Guru Amar Das of Goindwal has abandoned the religious
and social customs of the Hindus, and abolished the distinction
of the four castes. He makes his followers of all castes sit in
a line and eat together from his kitchen irrespective of caste
or religion. There is no offering of water to ancestors, no pilgrimages,
no worship of idols of gods or goddesses. The Guru reverenceth
not Jogis, Jatis or Brahmans. We, therefore, pray thee to restrain
him now, else it will be difficult later on."
Akbar sent a high official to Goindwal to request
Guru's attendance. The summons was not a brutal order of a modern
court,"Herein fail not, but kindly grant me a sight of thee."
The Guru sent Jetha saying,"Thou art in my image; Guru Nanak
will be with thee and none shall prevail against thee. Fear no
body and give suitable reply."
Jetha gave suitable replies to all the questions
and satisfied the Emperor who then gave his decision,"I see
no hostility to Hinduism in this man, nor do I find any fault
with his compositions." The Brahmans left the court in utter
defeat. Macauliffe qoutes 'Suraj Parkash', "Upon this the
Emperor took Jetha aside, and told him to request Guru Amar Das,
who before his conversion to Sikhism used to make yearly pilgrimages
to the Ganges, to make one pilgrimage more in order to divert
the wrath of the Hindus. The Emperor added that he would issue
an order that no tax should be levied on the Guru's party......
The Guru in compliance with the Emperor's suggestion, and also
in order to have an opportunity of preaching his religion, set
out for Hardwar." 'The Guru's going to Hardwar for one more
pilgrimage to avert the wrath of the Hindus', seems totally unfounded
because it is against the tenets of the Guru who says:
"Tirath nawan jao, tirath nam hai
Tirath sabad bichar untar gian hai."
(Dhanasri Mohalla 1, p-687)
'What is pilgrimage? Pilgrimage is Nam,
Pilgrimage is contemplation on Word and realization of inner knowledge.'
(Translation of the above)
"If mind is sinful, everything is sinful,
By washing the body, mind will not become pure."
(Wadhans Mohalla 3, p-558)
It is not right to assert that Guru Amar Das went
to Hardwar for one more pilgrimage to please the Hindus. Guru
Amar Das went to Hardwar and Kurukshetra not to make a pilgrimage
but to preach his doctrine and gospel of Nam to the thousands
of battered souls.
ABOLITION OF SATI:
The status of women in Hindu society at that time
was very low. When the husband died, the wife either voluntarily
burnt herself on the pyre of her husband or was thrown into the
fire without her consent. In popular term the woman who did perform
this act was called Sati (truthful). Guru Amar Das carried out
a vigorous campaign against the practice of Sati. He gave special
attention to the improvement of the status of women and thus prohibited
this practice. G.B. Scott acclaims the Guru as the first reformer
who condemned the prevailing Hindu practice of Sati. The Guru
advocated the following:
"Satis are not those who are burnt with husbands,
O Nanak, true Satis are whom pangs of separation can finish. Those
are considered Satis who live contented, embellish themselves
with good conduct;
And cherish the Lord ever and call on Him."
(Var Suhi ki- Slok Mohalla 3, p-787)
The Guru lifted the status of women as equal to
men. He prohibited the practice of Sati and preached in favor
of widow marriage.
ESTABLISHMENT OF MANJI SYSTEM:
The Guru's following increased considerably. Steps
were taken to organize the scattered congregation into a unified
whole which was called Manji system. His whole spiritual domain
took the shape of 22 Manjis (dioceses). It was so named because
the incharge of a Manji sat on a cot (called Manji in Punjabi)
to deliver the message of the Guru. The incharge of each and every
Manji was a devoted Sikh who was blessed by the Guru before he
was appointed to that position. His function was to preach the
mission of the Guru, to keep the Sangat (congregation) in touch
with the Guru and he was also responsible for the offerings of
the Sikhs which they made in token of their reverence to the Guru.
The following were the twenty-two Manjis:
1. Alayar: Alayar also called Allah Shah was a
Pathan trader whose story has been given earlier, became Guru's
Sikh and was entrusted with the first Manji to spread Sikh faith.
2. Sachan Sach: He was a Brahman from Mandar village
in Lahore district. He always used the word 'Sachan Sach' and
so he was called Sachan Sach. One of the queens of Raja of Haripur
became insane, and by the grace of the Guru, she recovered her
sanity. The Guru married her to Sachan Sach. The couple preached
3. Sadharan: He was an inhabitant of Goindwal
and was given a Manji for his devotion to the Guru.
4. Sawan Mal: He was a nephew of Guru Amar Das.
The Guru sent him to Haripur in Kangra district to procure timber
for the construction of houses in Goindwal. Sawan Mal propagated
Sikh gospel in that area.
5. Sukhan: He was an inhabitant of Dhamian village
in Rawalpindi district. He preached Sikhism in that area.
6. Handal: He was from Jandiala village in Amritsar
district. He rendered great service in Guru's kitchen.
7. Kedari: Bhai Kedari was an inhabitant of Batala
in Gurdaspur district. He was a very famous devotee of the Guru.
8. Kheda: He was from Khemkaran village in Lahore
district. He was a devotee of Durga goddess before he became Guru's
9. Gangushah: He was an inhabitant of Garh Shankar.
The Guru sent him to preach Sikhism in Sarmaur state.
10. Darbari: Bhai Darbari was from Majitha village
in Amritsar district.
11. Paro: Bhai Paro was a Sikh of Guru Angad.
He was an inhabitant of Dalla. His devotion got him the eleventh
12. Phera: Bhai Phera was an inhabitant of Mirpur
in Jammu area. He was a disciple of the Jogis before he became
Guru Amar Das's Sikh. He preached Sikhism in that hilly area.
13. Bua: Bhai Bua became Guru's Sikh and was blessed
with Nam, the fragrance of which he spread around his area.
14. Beni: He was a learned Pandit of Chunian in
Lahore district. He was proud of his knowledge of Hindu Shastras
and he defeated many in the debate of that knowledge. When he
came to Goindwal, he fell on the feet of the Guru and became his
Sikh. The Guru entrusted him with the fourteenth Manji.
15. Mahesa: He was an inhabitant of Sultanpur
and he performed missionary work in that area.
16. Mai Das: Mai Das's story has been given in
the previous pages. He preached Sikhism in Majha area.
17. Manak Chand: His reference has been made in
the previous pages. When he was drowned in the Bawli and then
revived by the Guru, the Sikhs called him Marjiwra- the revived
after death. His generation is called Marjiwre in Vairowal village
in Amritsar district. Manak Chand was made a spiritual guide to
Mai Das by the Guru.
18. Murari: He was an inhabitant of Khai village
in Lahore district. His original name Prema and he was a leper.
He heard about Guru Amar Das and came crawling all the way to
Goindwal. By the grace of the Guru, he was fully healed. He was
renamed as Murari. The Guru married him to Matho, daughter of
Bhai Sihan. He was then sent out as one of the itinerant preachers
of the Guru's gospel.
19. Raja Ram: He was a Brahman. He became Guru's
Sikh. His generation now lives in Sandhma village of Jullundhur
20. Rang Shah: He was an inhabitant of Malupote
village in Jullundhur district. He propagated Guru's faith in
21. Rang Das: He was from Gharooan village (near
Kharar) now in Rupar district.
22. Lalo: He was an inhabitant of Dalla and was
a famous Vaid (doctor). He became Guru's Sikh and preached Guru's
Guru Amar Das established another organization
called Piri system. The incharges of the Piris were ladies whose
objective was to lit the flame of Guru's word and spread the fragrance
of Nam among women. Bibi Bhani, Bibi Dani and Bibi Pal were some
of the most revered incharges of the different Piris. Guru Amar
Das gave authority and power to 146 of his apostles to go to various
parts of the country and unfold the glory of Nam. Out of these
146 persons, 94 were men and 52 were women. They were all glowing
with Nam and filled with Divine Spirit.
COMPOSITION OF ANAND SAHIB:
One day a Sidh Jogi came to the Guru and complained
that he performed every form of penance but did not obtain any
peace of mind. He further showed his desire to abandon his body
to be reborn in Guru's family so that he be happy worshipping
God and singing His praises. His wish was granted. The Guru had
two sons, Mohan and Mohri. Mohri's eldest son was Arth Mal and
it is said that this Sidh Jogi was reborn as Mohri's second son.
When the Guru heard of the Jogi's rebirth, he sent Bhai Ballu
to bring the infant to him. On seeing the child, the Guru uttered
the composition of Anand (Ramkali Mohalla 3, Anand) or the Song
of Joy, and called the child, Anand. This composition (Anand Sahib)
is now recited on the occasions of marriages and rejoicing.
SELECTION FOR GURUSHIP:
It should be remembered that Guru's eldest daughter,
Bibi Dani was married to Rama who was a zealous Sikh. He used
to work in Guru's kitchen and administer to the needs of the pilgrims.
Jetha was his younger son-in-law. One day the Guru asked Rama
and Jetha,"Each one of you make a platform by the side of
Bawli. I will sit on one in the morning and on the other in the
evening." When the platforms were completed, the Guru went
to inspect them. Rama showed his work and thought that he had
done well. The Guru told Rama,"Your platform is not straight,
bring it down and rebuild it." Rama dissented but rebuilt
another one. It still failed to please the Guru. Rama after long
argument, pulled the platform down but refused to build it third
The Guru inspected Jetha's platform and said,"Jetha,
I do not like it. Demolish it and build another one." Jetha
built the second one which was also not of Guru's liking. He demolished
it and rebuilt it. The Guru continued to find fault with it until
it was destroyed and rebuilt seven times. Jetha then fell at Guru's
feet and begged, "I am a fool and lack understanding, while
thou possesseth all knowledge. kindly bless me with the wisdom
so that I may be able to erect the platform of your liking."
On hearing this the Guru smiled and embraced Jetha
and commented,"Obeying my order, you have built the platform
seven times, so seven generations of thine shall sit on the throne
of Guru Nanak."
Bibi Bhani, Guru's youngest daughter, used to
attend her father. She used to fan him, draw water and work in
the kitchen. One day the Guru was sitting on his couch (chauki)
in deep meditation, when Bibi Bhani noticed that one leg of his
couch had broken. Fearing that his meditation would be disturbed,
she put her arm in place of the broken leg to support the couch.
When the Guru opened his eyes, he found blood coming out of Bibi
Bhani's arm. On inquiry Bibi explained that broken leg might have
caused disturbance in his meditation and so she thought herself
fortunate to serve Guru by substituting her arm for the broken
leg of the couch. The Guru commented,"Whosoever does good
work, shall reap the reward thereof." He invited her to ask
for any favor. She humbly requested that the Guruship should remain
in her family. It is believed that the Guru told Bibi Bhani that
the Guruship was not a bed of roses and he warned her of the trouble
and torture that the later Gurus would have to go through. Bibi
Bhani agreed to embrace all those troubles, and again requested
to grant her the wish that the Guruship would remain in her family.
So far the Guruship was earned by obedience and devotion to the
Guru. Here again Bibi Bhani earned it, for her family, with her
devotion and sacrifice. The Guru granted her the wish and the
Guruship thereafter remained in Bibi Bhani's family.
Guru Nanak appointed his successor at Kartarpur
but asked him to go and live at Khadur. Guru Angad asked his successor,
Guru Amar Das to live in Goindwal. Guru Amar Das asked Jetha to
search for a place other than Goindwal as a residence for the
Sikhs. Jetha found an open land about 25 miles from Goindwal,
and he established himself there. He built a house for himself
and got a tank excavated which was called Santokhsar. It is also
believed that the Guru asked Jetha to excavate another tank towards
the east which would be called Amritsar- tank of nectar.
SUCCESSION OF GURU RAM DAS:
Guru Amar Das having tested Jethaji in every way,
found him perfect and asked for special congregation. Then he
asked Bhai Ballu to bring coco-nut and five paise. He asked Jethaji
to bathe and clothe in new raiment. Then the Guru descended from
his throne and made Jethaji seat on it and called him Guru Ram
Das. Bhai Buddha, according to the custom, attached the tilak
of Sovereignty to Guru Ram Das's forehead. Among great rejoicing,
all Sikhs made offerings according to their means and saluted
Guru Ram Das on his appointment. This ceremony was performed on
August 30, 1574 at Goindwal.
GURU AMAR DAS'S DEPARTURE:
Guru Amar Das proclaimed,"God's summons hath
come. Let there be no mourning when I have gone, sing God's praises,
read God's Word (Gurbani), hear God's Word and obey God's Will."
On the first of September, 1574, Guru Amar Das left for his heavenly
abode and the spirit blended with the Master Spirit.
FN-1: Guru had a mare.
A Brahman draws a small square and washes the spot with water
and calls it a purified square. He then prepares his meals within
the square. If anyone enters the square, it gets polluted and
the food prepared inside the square then is deemed impure.